Christopher Vaughn was staring at a life sentence for executing his entire family unless his lawyer somehow got him a new trial.
The lawyer, George Lenard, tried to pull that off by pointing to the boorish behavior exhibited by the attorneys for wife-killer Drew Peterson and claiming it kept his client from getting a fair shake from the jury.
Vaughn and Peterson's murder trials overlapped and were conducted in adjacent courtrooms on the fourth floor of the Will County Courthouse. Lenard came and went to the trial without addressing the media while Peterson's attorneys conducted press conferences throughout the day.
Lenard recalled one press session and told how three of Peterson's attorneys—Joel Brodsky, Joseph "Shark" Lopez and Steve Greenberg—stood in front of a bank of cameras and joked about Peterson's missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. The lawyers had listed Stacy as a witness for Peterson's upcoming trial on charges he murdered his third wife, Kathleen Savio.
"That gave criminal defense lawyers—all of us—a bad name," Lenard said Monday while arguing that Vaughn needed a new trial.
"The public, some of the public, has a negative impression of defense attorneys to begin with, then you add to that," said Lenard, who listed the Peterson case and the antics of his attorneys as one of "four major areas" he claims precluded Vaughn from receiving a fair trial.
Judge Daniel Rozak didn't buy Lenard's argument and packed Vaughn off to prison on four life sentences. And Peterson attorney Lopez said that might have had something to do with the legitimacy of Lenard's claims.
"I've never seen anything that ludicrous in my life, but I haven't been everywhere," Lopez said of the argument made by Lenard, whom he happened to replace on the Peterson defense team in April 2010. Lenard and another attorney, Andrew Abood, withdrew from the case together, both citing irreconcilable differences with Brodsky.
"It's a last ditch effort by a desperate man," Lopez said.
When they withdrew and Lopez came on board, Lopez said of Lenard and Abood, "They have absolutely no concept about how to defend this case."
On Tuesday, Lopez said Lenard was still hung up on Peterson.
"He can't get Peterson out of his mind," said Lopez, who was dismissive of Lenard's allegations that he, Brodsky and Greenberg cost Vaughn a fair trial.
"I give it no meaning because I consider the source," Lopez said. "Ex-employees always talk bad about their bosses and co-workers, don't they? Somebody needs someone to blame for their shortcomings."
Lenard could not be reached for comment on Lopez's remarks Tuesday evening.
Greenberg said he understood the basis of Lenard's argument.
"He's going to do what he needs to do," Greenberg said of Lenard. "We did what we needed to do. Some of it I agreed with. Some of it I did because 'Coach' told me to."
Greenberg has said Brodsky wanted the other lawyers on the case to refer to him as "Coach" during Peterson's murder trial. Greenberg has also accused Brodsky of losing the case and making key moves that led to Peterson's conviction.
Brodsky no longer represents Peterson. He claims to have left the defense team voluntarily. A post trial motion filed by the remaining lawyers asserts that Peterson was denied effective assistance of counsel and lists a number of allegedly questionably decisions made by Brodsky.
Lopez, who will be back in court with Peterson for post-conviction matters next month, said Lenard was employing the "Peterson defense" in the Vaughn case.
"He should have used the Twinkie defense," Lopez said.